Mark Buehrle has beaten Minnesota more than any pitcher in history, so he didn’t do anything on Friday that the Twins hadn’t seen before. Come to think of it, though he was only a Twin for parts of two seasons, neither did Chris Colabello.
In his first game back at Target Field since being allowed to leave on a waiver claim last winter, Colabello knocked his old team out of first place by smashing a fastball from Glen Perkins into the Toronto bullpen, lifting the Blue Jays to a 6-4 come-from-behind victory.
“Perk’s going to challenge [you] — I’ve seen him pitch for a couple of years now,” Colabello said after whacking his fourth home run of the season, a two-run, ninth-inning shot that lifted Toronto out of last place in the AL East. “It was down a little bit, but I put a good swing on it.”
The Twins didn’t get many good swings against Buehrle, not after the first inning. The Toronto lefthander gave up hits to five of the first six batters he faced, then only one more to the final 26 batters. He gave up four runs in the first — the Twins have scored in the first inning in eight of their past 10 games — and the Blue Jays actually had a relief pitcher warming up before he had recorded his second out. But he was so effective in the next eight innings that Buehrle became the first pitcher since Roy Halladay in 2009 to earn a complete-game victory despite allowing a four-run inning.
“It’s a little frustrating for us to lose a game when you get four in the first inning off a guy like that,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said of Buehrle, whose 30 career victories against the Twins are the most in history. “As we know he can, he settled in. A complete game after that start [is] pretty impressive.”
Perkins has been impressive all season, going 18-for-18 in save situations, but he was called upon in a tie game — not a save situation — Friday, and he wasn’t the same. He issued his third walk of the season — “some close pitches there,” Molitor said — to Russell Martin to open the ninth inning, then left a first-pitch fastball over the plate to Colabello, his old teammate.
“I couldn’t have drawn it up that way,” Colabello said, “but I’m glad it happened.”
The Twins, not so much, not after pouncing on their old nemesis so quickly. Buehrle has allowed more hits to the Twins than any pitcher in history, too, and the Twins added five more to their total in the first inning, staking righthander Trevor May to a quick 4-0 lead. As he has three times in the four games of this homestand, Brian Dozier led off the first inning with a double. Shane Robinson followed with an infield hit, and Joe Mauer drove in the first run with a single to center, Dozier just beating the throw to the plate.
Torii Hunter, moved to the fifth spot in the lineup, drove in Robinson with a one-out double to center, and Kurt Suzuki hit a ball that deflected off Buehrle for another RBI single. Eduardo Escobar’s sacrifice fly scored the fourth run.
But Buehrle wasn’t the same pitcher after the Twins’ big first inning, and he didn’t allow another hit until the sixth inning. He faced the minimum 24 hitters over the next eight innings. When Danny Santana reached on a bobbled grounder by shortstop Jose Reyes, the pitcher quickly picked him off base; when Trevor Plouffe hit an inside-out single to right, Buehrle got Hunter to hit into a double play.